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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Rumors remain Kennedy was targeted in Tampa

It’s said that if you remember the Sixties you weren’t really there.

I remember those days, if only in snatches and I’m not always sure those are real.

I mean I remember when The Beatles came to America and Channel 13 sportscaster Salty Sol Fleischman put on a Beatles’ wig, that sort of thing. I remember all night spook-a-thons at the drive-in theater and rock and roll spectaculars at the Clearwater Auditorium.

Later on in that decade I remember getting greetings from Uncle Sam and it all sort of blurs after that.

I remember my buddy Wally, who was a little older and played the drums in the University of Tampa band while I was still in high school, He convinced me to read Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative’’ and then go stand out on Grand Central Boulevard holding signs that read “AUH20 in ‘64,’’ as if a chemical Goldwater could win.

He glanced our way when he flashed by and grinned. My only thought was how much older he seemed than the only other time I had seen him just as briefly three years earlier when he made a campaign stop.

I think it would be in the weeks following that day that the Sixties truly began; a period when our familiar innocent world of the Fifties began to collapse around us and a brave new world that looked to go its own way emerged.

This interest building around the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas is already underway. Around here there is a special notice because of the president’s visit to Tampa only four days before he was killed.

On Tuesday there will be a new documentary, produced by Lynn Marvin Dingfelder and shown at the Tampa Theatre on JFK’s five-hour visit to town.

A month-long exhibit of memorabilia from that trip will be on display starting this weekend at the Tampa Bay History Center.

All of this has also dredged up new interest in, not only was there a lone gunman in Dallas, but was Tampa an earlier pick to kill the president during his motorcade through town.

You might think they have written everything that can be speculated about on the assassination, but I suspect we’re in for a new round of rumors and innuendo.

I was lucky enough to speak more than once with the late Frank Ragano, the “mob lawyer” who claimed alleged local underworld boss Santo Trafficante Jr. was deeply involved in efforts to have Kennedy killed. One such scenario had the gunman parked in the recently renovated Floridan Hotel. There are others.

One word is that Trafficante heard his plans had been discovered and called them off.

Whatever the truth, Kennedy’s visit to Tampa was a celebration and it fell to Dallas to become a symbol of that awful day.

I remember going to Dallas to cover the Republican convention in 1984. Even then the city had gone to lengths to muffle references to the assassination. If you were to ask a cop or any official how to get to Dealey Plaza or the old school book depository building, you were more likely to get a shrug or “I think it’s closed for repairs.’’ It could have been Tampa.

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